Ngāti Maniapoto sailor Louis Schofield was part of the Australian team that won the Youth Match Racing World Championship in Auckland recently.
Born in England, to an Australian father and a Ngāti Maniapoto mother, Schofield was raised in Williamstown near Port Phillip in Victoria but has maintained a close connection to his whakapapa.
"My family and heritage are such an important part of who I am as a person and gives me a true sense of purpose, connection and wellbeing," Schofield says.
Schofield's connection to his Ngāti Maniapoto whakapapa is such that he wore a korowai made by his great-grandmother, the legendary weaver Diggeress Te Kanawa, when his crew were awarded the championship trophy, after the James Hodgson-skippered team beat the USA 3-0 in the final.
"It is hard to put into words how significant and special it was for me to achieve one of my lifelong dreams in front of my grandparents and the rest of the whānau and to wear my great-grandmother’s korowai.
"To wear my great-grandmother’s korowai in front of my teammates and the whole sailing community will remain a cherished memory for life," Schofield told Te Ao Māori News.
Louis Schofield with his grandparents, and his great-grandmother's korowai, after winning the Youth Match Racing World Championship in Auckland. Photo/Supplied`
His father has been a keen sailor since his youth and became involved with the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria after moving to Williamstown in Victoria. Louis began sailing soon after and has spent much of his life on the water in Port Philip and around the world.
The 20-year-old left Australia after finishing high school and moved to Aotearoa where he took up an opportunity to train with the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, the current home of the America's Cup.
Schofield won the New Zealand Youth Championship in 2018 before returning to Australia, where he joined the Youth Academy at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia in Sydney, the home club of his world youth championship team.
It is a move he says was a big risk at the time but which has paid off for him.
"The easy decision would have been to stay in NZ where I had enjoyed some success, had a great place to live, was in a strong relationship and had made several great friendships. But with risk comes reward and without making some tough decisions I would not be a world champion today," he says.
The title of youth world championship adds to an impressive sailing resume for Schofield, who has sailed in places such as the UK, Netherlands and New Caledonia.
"Obviously, it is the highlight of my sailing career so far and in many ways a reward for the many personal sacrifices you make for your sport along the way," he says.
"Ultimately, there are so many things that I would love to achieve in sailing and I am grateful to be able to achieve this success with such a great crew."
Looking ahead, Schofield says that while he dreamed of sailing at the Olympic Games as a young sailor, his focus is now being dragged towards the more fast-paced, high technology form of yacht racing.
"I have had a small taste of sailing at extreme speeds on foiling boats and would love to get involved in an America’s Cup programme or on the GC32 Racing Tour."
Schofield has also become involved in ocean racing having taken part in the famous Sydney-Hobart race that takes place every Boxing Day in Australia. He is currently racing on the TP52 class Zen in Sydney and also hopes to compete in the Farr 40 world championships later this year.
The Youth Match Racing World Championships sees 12 of the best four to five-person under 23 crews in the world compete over four days of head-to-head racing in Elliott 7 keelboats. The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia has now won it two years in a row, with Hodgson being a member of last year's winning crew in Russia. Schofield says they will begin their defence of the trophy and aim for the three-peat later this year.
As for the possibility of one day representing his mother's country, he says, "I consider myself very much a dual citizen with strong ties to both countries, (NZ and Australia).
"I can honestly say that I don’t really have a preference either way and would love to represent either country given the opportunity. I have already represented Aotearoa in both Australia and New Caledonia and would love to do so again should the opportunity arise in the future."
Regardless, it seems wherever he sails or what flag his vessel carries, Louis Schofield will still carry his very proud and strong Ngāti Maniapoto roots with him.